01st Dec 2015

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has named its squad for the upcoming tour of Spain. The 25-woman strong team will be the first Hong Kong XV to play a test series against non-Asian opposition next month (Dec 12-21) in Madrid.

Hong Kong will play Spain on Tuesday (15 Dec.) and Saturday (19 Dec.) although both sides are expected to experiment with their selections in the opening match.

The final squad features a core of national team players including those from the sevens squad, who recently returned from participating in the final stage of Olympic qualification for the Rio 2016 Games. Hong Kong finished third overall in the qualification process, securing their spot in an international repechage tournament next year for the sole remaining women’s berth at the 2016 Games in Rio.

“We’ve got a good mix of young players and experienced campaigners such as Christy Cheng and Royce Chan from the sevens set-up, but we were keen to make sure that we selected a squad for the future so there is a balance of experience and potential for the future,” said Hong Kong Women’s XVs coach and HKRU Women’s Performance Manager Jo Hull.

The squad features a concentration of players from the two strongest HKRU Premiership sides, Societe Generale Valley and CPM Gai Wu Falcons. Chow Mei Nam, who plays No.8 and captains CPM Gai Wu Falcons, currently in second on the Women’s Premiership league table, will lead Hong Kong for the first time on tour.

“Although she has only played twice for the national team - in last season’s Asia Rugby Women’s Championship, she is already a huge leader in everything we do. Over the last three or four months she has proven that she is one to watch for the future.

“Physically she has the size to compete at this level. She’s a strong ball carrier who we’ll be relying on heavily in the coming games. But she also embodies the team’s values. She is a teacher by day and her work rate is inspirational to the rest of the team,” Hull added.

Societe Generale Valley’s Adrienne Garvey is the vice captain and is one of eight Valley players in the squad. Valley is undefeated in the Women’s Premiership, extending their winning streak to 20 matches across two seasons after winning the double last season without a loss.

Gai Wu are runners-up on the table with a game in hand, and nine of their players have been selected including the ‘Gai Wu Express’, Aggie Poon, the top scorer on the Asian Sevens Series this season. USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers and Natixis Hong Kong Football Club both have three representatives in the final 25 with Kowloon and Tai Po Dragons each having one player represented.

Sevens captain Christy Cheng Ka Chi has been named to the Tour, alongside Poon, Amelie Seure, Natasha Olson-Thorne, Sham Wai Sum, Kwong Sau Yan, Candy Cheng Tsz Ting and Stephanie Cuvelier from the squad that recently competed in Tokyo. Other elite athletes from the rugby sevens programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute named include Royce Chan, Melody Li Nim Yan, Colleen Tjosvold and Garvey.

Hull and the selectors have tipped four potential new caps including Valley’s Rebecca Thompson who previously represented Hong Kong at age grade level and has recently returned from studying overseas. Hong Kong U20s sevens captain Aileen Ryan of Natixis Hong Kong Football Club has also been selected, along with Kowloon’s Mak Ho Yee, another U20s sevens player and National Age Grade representative, rounding out the three new caps in the backline.

“Our four new caps show great potential for the future,” said Hull. “Ryan, Thompson and Ho have come through the Age Grade programme as one of our key aims for the Tour is to groom young players. There are a number of exciting U19 players coming through at the moment and we wanted to ensure that opportunities to progress into senior rugby are provided.”

Jasmine Shuk Han Cheung is the only uncapped player selected in the forwards after having impressed selectors on her return to Hong Kong from studying overseas. “Jasmine brings a strong physical presence to the side. She has been playing in England and adds some valuable experience and knowledge to the team,” added Hull.

Spain finished ninth overall in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup after being grouped in the same pool with the eventual finalists England and Canada. Spain beat Kazakhstan 18-5 to advance to the ninth place play-off where they dispatched South Africa 36-0. The results indicate the challenge ahead for Hong Kong who lost their most recent test to Kazakhstan 40-0 in Almaty this spring.

“We expect a physical challenge from Spain, but they also have a full-time sevens squad which is obviously going to be a factor. They are good with ball in hand and fast, building out of their sevens capability, so it will be an excellent opportunity for us to gauge where we are,” said Hull.

“Spain are good, but we are focusing more on our own processes rather than our opponents. We have some talented players and can play dynamic rugby. We’re never going to be the biggest or the strongest team on the park, but we have an experienced front row that we will rely on heavily. We also have huge experience in the backline so we want to move the ball around.

“It’s very easy to say ‘we’re building’, but that is our mindset as we look from the next few months to four of five years from now. It’s important for the players to gain experience now.

We’ll be looking to see which combinations work on Tour and will focus on some key performance goals rather than judging success purely on wins and losses. Having said that, we want to show our strengths to the women’s rugby world and a win would be nice,” Hull concluded.

Hong Kong Squad, Spain Tour (Dec 12-21)

Forwards: Karen SO Hoi Ting, Amelie SEURE, Royce CHAN Leong Sze, CHENG Ching To, Christy CHENG Ka Chi, CHOW Mei Nam (Captain), Claire FORSTER, Tammy LAU Nga Wun, LEE Ka Shun, Melody LI Nim Yan, LO Wai Yan, Jasmine CHEUNG Shuk Han, Winnie SIU Wing Ni.Backs: Adrienne GARVEY (Vice Captain), Aileen RYAN, CHENG Tsz Ting, Colleen TJOSVOLD, KWONG Sau Yan, LAU Sze Wa, MAK Ho Yee, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Pak Yan, Rebecca THOMPSON, SHAM Wai Sum, Stephanie CUVELIER.